There was a time, not too long ago, when Marvel Comics would start and end series so fast you’d think Quicksilver was editor-in-chief. Thankfully, we’re entering Marvel’s Legacy era, so those days will soon be nothing more than a distant memory… right… right??
Extraordinary X-Men was among those short-lived series. Lasting only 20 issues, it was actually, in my opinion, one of the most consistently well-written X-series on the stands. Produced by writer Jeff Lemire and a rotating cast of artists, the series focused on a rag-tag group of mutants who were forced to relocate to Limbo to avoid the Inhumans’ deadly Terrigen Mists, which had saturated Earth’s atmosphere.
TL;DR: The Inhumans made the X-Men’s home uninhabitable. What jerks.
The Inhumans Vs. X-Men era is unlikely to rank as a favorite in many fans’ eyes–something Marvel realized and worked hard to apologize for based on the existence of nostalgic series like X-Men: Gold and Generation X. With that said, I am a fan of the ways Lemire and his collaborators took the cards they were dealt and delivered some pretty great X-Men tales.
So, if you’re looking to wrap up Lemire’s run in trades, yes, it ends with four IVX tie-in issues. A bit odd? Maybe not when you realize the entire series was pretty much designed to build up to IVX. Fortunately, Lemire (who also co-wrote IVX with Charles Soule) manages to make these four issues pretty much stand on their own. Yes, they’re set against the backdrop of the story being told in the main IVX mini-series, but they end up being exceptional character-driven snapshots.
Take Extraordinary X-Men #17, for example. The collection’s first issue shines a light on the horrors of M-Pox (caused by the Terrigen Mists) and, surprisingly, casts the X-Men in a very unsuperheroic light. The young mutant Maya is dying from the disease. Her hero Storm promised the X-Men would make everything okay. So then, why is Maya’s life slipping away? Where is the X-Men’s fearless leader when Maya needs her the most? And why won’t any of our mutant heroes give Maya’s sister the time of day?
It ends up being a very effective exploration of the X-Men as mutant celebrities and Storm as a conflicted leader. Eric Koda provides the pencils and is especially good in the comic’s rain-soaked final pages.
We see a different side of Storm in Extraordinary X-Men #18, which focuses on her former lover Forge. The mutant inventor views himself as a “midwife of the impossible,” and yet, he feels as though his fellow X-Men don’t respect him. Lemire treated Forge like a punching bag throughout his run, so it’s nice to see him receive some closure from his rival for Storm’s affections, Old Man Logan. Victor Ibanez is the main artist but lets Andrea Sorrentino take the wheel for a visit to Logan’s dark future for a Mad Max-inspired showdown with the Rhino and his gang.
Extraordinary X-Men #19 is all about the relationship between Magik and Sapna, a young mutant Lemire created and featured throughout the series. This issue’s strength is its spooky visuals courtesy of Koda. Then, Lemire and Ibanez create a bridge to the ResurrXion era with Extraordinary X-Men #20, featuring the fate of Cerebra.
But wait–there’s more! Yes, Marvel includes X-Men: Prime #1 in this collection to justify the $16.99 price tag. I’m not going to go into my thoughts on Prime here (been there, done that), but it’s definitely a stylistic shift from Lemire’s run. The best thing Marvel could do would be to collect the writer’s entire run in one hardcover and, if they do, leave out the ResurrXion stuff.
In terms of extras, we’re treated to a few variant covers, which are nice to see if you were unaware of them the first time around.
Marvel was also nice enough to pull a quote from my review of Extraordinary X-Men #20 and put it on this collection’s back cover. I still feel like it sums up my feelings for the entire series–and now, Extraordinary X-Men Volume 4: IVX–pretty well, so here it is again…
“Lemire and his artistic collaborators managed to mix strong character work, a willingness to experiment and high stakes to create a truly unique X-Men book.”
Well said, me.